Dear UJ Community,
Following my return to Johannesburg from the United States of America, and more recently Limpopo, I took some time to embark on my regular campus walkabouts. I was greeted by the sight of students sitting on the lawns or benches with their books and laptops open while soaking up the sun. Barring the occasional sound of lawn mowers and grasscutters piercing the air, I was astounded by the calm ambience that our campus environments have to offer. Amid the tranquility, the nostalgia of my early student days came hurtling back.
It was indeed a beautiful sight, and it reminded me that our students are nearing the end of their midyear semester assessments. Just a few months ago, many of these spaces were empty because of the COVID-19 restrictions. How strange the world became, I thought to myself. It is encouraging to see that many of these spaces have filled up once again and our students are able to engage with their academic activities on campus.
Of course, this would not have been possible without the cooperation and understanding of our University Community who have embraced our Mandatory Vaccination Policy. In this regard, I wish to extend my special gratitude to the UJ Student Representative Council (SRC) leadership for their support. As communicated, more than 93% of our students are now compliant with the policy. It is worth noting that the SRC President sits on our Mandatory COVID-19 Coordinating Committee, which is a body that advises the Management Executive Committee (MEC) on matters related to managing the risk of the pandemic on our campuses.
It is this type of leadership spirit that we all yearn for, especially as we celebrate Youth Month in South Africa. As we commemorate the 46th anniversary of the Soweto Uprisings, it is important to ensure that the legacy of leaders like Tsietsi Mashinini lives on. As I wrote in one of my columns, we need to draw inspiration from literary works of intellectuals like Franz Fanon, who once stated that “each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it”. This is a rallying call to the youth to show fortitude and resilience as they face new challenges.
I say this, considering that our country today faces a myriad challenges, ranging from ailing and failing infrastructure, the collapse of governance and ethics that has contributed to wasteful and fruitless expenditure, as well as the looting of state resources on a grand scale. What we need as a nation is a calibre of leaders who can rise to the occasion and rescue the country from the clutches of self-serving leaders with no respect for our Constitution. We should continue to focus on developing values that speak to moral leadership. I trust you had the time to reflect on these issues while you commemorated Youth Day yesterday.
Still on Youth Day commemorations, the head of Technopreneurship Mr Ronny Mabokela, together with the students from Department of Applied Information Systems (which is headed by Dr Stella Bvuma), participated at the Mthatha 4IR Youth Expo in Eastern Cape, yesterday. In addition, the students were required to showcase their fourth industrial revolution (4IR) smart Agriculture Solutions to President of South Africa, Hon. Cyril Ramaphosa.
The President mentioned that “this 4IR Youth Expo is demonstrating the very many opportunities that exist right now for young people, thanks to technology. Mr Mabokela and the students also visited Umthata High School and S.t John’s College to drive the 4IR awareness and demonstrate the opportunities that comes with technology innovations. Through the leadership of Dr Bvuma, he has been mandated to ensure UJ takes a lead in 4IR matters, and that women must be partake in even better lead.
On a different note, you will recall that last week, I mentioned that Prof Chris Rogerson has now been ranked 647 in the world and 8 in South Africa in the discipline of Social Sciences and Humanities. I am pleased to announce that more UJ academics have been recognised in this ranking. Professor Mike Henning is now listed number 2 in South Africa in the field of Mathematics. Joining Profs Henning and Rogerson is Dr. Tony Onwuengbuzi (a Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Education), who is now rated at number 1 in Africa and the United Kingdom, 2 in Europe and 14 in the world in the Field of Education.
More good news is that Prof Jace Pillay has been recogonised by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) for his consistent support to the department with regard to psychosocial and mental health support to schools. Prof Pillay uses his research to actively engage in psychosocial interventions to benefit schools, families, and communities. He has established a partnership between our University, Johns Hopkins University and the DBE to implement the Common Elements Treatment Approach (CETA) that deals with multiple psychosocial problems, especially in low-and middle-income countries. This project will be rolled out to schools nationally from this year and will continue over the next three to five years. The DBE and Pillay have secured R3.5 million from UNICEF for the first group to receive the CETA training in July/August 2022.
Additionally, the DBE has appointed Prof Pillay as the Chairperson of the National Task Team for the implementation of the CETA programme. Furthermore, he has also been appointed to serve on the Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL) Investment Portfolio Reference Committee that is mandated to provide strategic guidance and support to the DBE in addressing social-economic and health-related challenges that negatively impact on the lives of educators, learners and educators. Prof Pillay, congratulations, we wish all the best in these roles!
Pleased also join me in congratulating Monica Singer, Professor of Practice in the College of Business Economics (CBE), School of Accounting, on her appointment to the Global Digital Asset and Cryptocurrency (DCA) Association’s Advisory Board. The Global DCA is the global self-regulatory association serving the digital asset & cryptocurrency industry. The association was established to guide the evolution of digital assets, cryptocurrencies, and the underlying blockchain technology within a regulatory framework designed to build public trust, foster market integrity, and maximize economic opportunity for all participants.
The association’s broad-based membership includes exchanges, proprietary trading firms, traders, investors, asset managers, brokerage firms, FCMs, custodians, decentralized technology organizations, banks, legal firms, audit firms, insurance professionals, academics, consultants, and media. Prof Singer, we surely take pride in your global standing as a future-orientated intellectual, thank you for flying the UJ flag high.
Not to be outdone, our students also continue to break boundaries in their various fields. Most recently, Mr Arthur Mahlangu, a visual artist and first-year student in the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA), won the grand prize at the Ricoffy Heritage Tin Competition. The design-the-tin competition promotes creative expression and asked consumers to enter designs depicting their personal pride and heritage.
Mr Mahlangu’s successful entry spoke to his background and inspiration, infusing Ndebele and Kasi inspired patterns in the award winning design. He will have the opportunity to see his design featured in South Africa’s retail shelves during Heritage Month as limited edition Nescafe Ricoffy tins. Watch his interview here.
On COVID-19 matters again, I wish to remind you that we have completed the revision of our COVID-19 workplace risk assessment study. The results of this study are being analysed and will inform us in dealing with the challenges of COVID-19 related challenges going forward. However, I have been informed that there are a few staff and students who are still not compliant with the UJ Mandatory Vaccination Policy. We rely on the leadership of the line managers to ensure compliance within their domains, including the recording of the weekly negative PCR test results where applicable.
We thus reiterate our call for employees and students who are yet to be compliant with our University’s Mandatory Vaccination Policy to do so. If you have been vaccinated and have not uploaded your vaccination certificate, please do so on https://ulink.uj.ac.za/ujvac. To read more about the Policy as well as other COVID-19 information click http://www.uj.ac.za/covid-19.
As usual, I remind you to notify our campus clinics if you have tested positive for COVID-19, or if you know of a colleague or a student who has tested positive.
We appeal to all to adhere to recommended COVID-19 precautionary measures at all times (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public).
Kea leboga, enkosi, baie dankie, ndi a livhuwa, thank you!
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg
Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time-zone.